In these troubling times, we need a film like A Fantastic Woman. Remarkably impactful, exploring precedent themes, offering hope where there doesn't appear to be any, and announcing relative newcomer Daniela Vega as a powerful cinematic presence.
Marina Vidal is a waitress by day and a nightclub singer by night who lives with her older boyfriend, Orlando. Events become complicated when
Chilean director Sebastián Lelio has been slowly building a reputation in his national cinema and here produces the closest film to his masterpiece. The film is sumptuous, fascinating, engaging, and one I have struggled to find fault with. It marries Benjamín Echazarreta's beautiful, almost tableaux-esque cinematography with Matthew Herbert's audibly stunning music for an experience that impacts the senses. But the style never overtakes the message and the film explore a difficult theme, first highlighting archaic governmental systems that can't process who Marina is and then how this feeds down to the micro level of her interactions with Orlando's family. Yet the film never loses hope, even when it appears the grief and alienation
And that hope is embodied by Vega's fantastic performance. The film focuses entirely on her and she in return gives a committed, evocative performance. A Fantastic Woman would not work if the lead actress was not, well, fantastic, and Vega is tough, expressive, subtle, magnificent. She is comfortable in the dramatic scenes, the moments of refreshing comedy and even when the film strays into more surreal territory. Plus she is an exceptionally good singer, key to several of the film's standout scenes. The rest of the cast are all very good in their individual part, even if the film constrains most of them in its narrative. This is
A Fantastic Woman is a sumptuous, stylish film that uses a simple narrative to explore powerful themes. It dives into dark territory but emerges as a hopeful cinematic piece. Vega is exceptional in the lead and this film marks her as a talent to watch.
This is a London Film Festival preview and A Fantastic Woman will be released on Friday 2nd March.